A few weeks ago I wrote about cleaning out my closet. Here’s what I didn’t tell you: I didn’t actually clean out my closet. To be fair, I got rid of a LOT (about 70% of what was in there), but what remained was still too much and still left me uneasy.
My relationship with clothing has never been a great one. I like clothes, but I’m not good at them. Like any area of life that makes me uncomfortable or I feel less-than-good at, I stick to my old time-tested habit. Ignore it. Pretend it’s not there. Close the closet door (or curtain, in my case) and call it “as good as it’s ever going to get.”
I appreciate good fashion. I’m embarrassingly envious of that friend I have who always has on just the right outfit for the occasion, no matter the occasion. Tea on a Saturday morning, perfect outfit. Dinner party on a chilly night in the fall, perfect outfit. I am not equipped with this skill. My solution? Quantity! If my closet is full of enough items, I’ll be more likely to put something together that works, right? Sadly, this never seems to be the case, because as Glennon Melton says, “You can never get enough of what you don’t need.”
Earlier this year, inspired by The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I (mostly) tidied the closet, leaving myself with plenty of options, and walked away proud, thinking, “Nice work! That’s good enough! Let’s not get too crazy.”
Then I left for a trip. Then another trip. Then another one.
Last week, upon returning from a few weeks away and dumping the suitcase contents into the laundry, I noticed a reminder from my friend Courtney that now was the time to start the fall round of her Minimalist Fashion Challenge. I decided right then that it was time to acknowledge a pattern I had been overlooking for years.
I travel a LOT. I live out of a suitcase more than my closet, and thus here is the cycle of my life with clothing.
- Work from home for a few days in my favorite outfits.
- Pack a suitcase with those favorite items, plus a few more.
- Live out of suitcase for a week or two or three or longer.
- Return home, wash the outfits in the suitcase and return to step 1.
So why didn’t I just get rid of the clothes that spent their lives hanging in the closet while I did the suitcase shuffle? For many reasons, but at the top of the list were these:
Fear of being wasteful.
Fear of scarcity.
Fear of “She’s wearing that AGAIN?”
Let’s address these, shall we?
Fear of being wasteful
I bought all this stuff. I paid good money for this stuff. Getting rid of it is so wasteful!
Truth: What’s wasteful is continuing the pattern. Giving away the excess, breaking the cycle, and learning what is really enough is the opposite of wasteful.
Fear of scarcity
What if I have to go to a party and I decide I really DO need that long blue dress? I will regret getting rid of it! 33 items simply won’t be enough. Courtney clearly doesn’t understand MY life.
Truth: There were nowhere near 33 items in my suitcase for the last 3 weeks. I went to almost every kind of occasion and never once thought, “I wish I had brought _____.” Not once. Scarcity is a lie.
Fear of “She’s wearing that AGAIN?”
My friends and colleagues will begin to think, “How many times are we gonna see that skirt?” and I will feel judged and less-than-classy.
Truth: Why do I care so much? Do I really think people will subtract character points because I wore that same black skirt again? If I claim to value soul over skin, I should act like it.
With the fears addressed and the suitcase unpacked, I decided it was time for Project 333. 33 items for 3 months, including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes. Yes, I said outerwear and shoes. I love few things in life as much as I love jackets.
It took a while, but it was liberating. Here are two immediate takeaways, and I cannot wait to see what unfolds in the months ahead.
Scarcity is not real
Once I pulled everything out of the closet and took the time to go through piece by piece, the abundance was alarming. I had four black sweaters. FOUR. They were almost all the same. Now granted, my job requires wearing black (now you’re wondering if my job is being Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, right?) but FOUR black sweaters? Excessive. And I didn’t even know I had them. I had more clothes that I ever could have imagined.
A curated closet (and life) is better than a full one
Is the goal of a wardrobe to collect a closet full of clothes? Or is the goal to look good and feel comfortable and confident? I propose it’s the latter. The key to this is not having a full closet, but a well-curated one. Good style is a skill that can be applied regardless of quantity. The same goes for our lives. Do we want our schedules, our diets, our budgets, and our relationships to be full, or to be well-curated? I am starting with my wardrobe in hopes of getting better at working on the rest.
Your turn! If you have a capsule wardrobe, any tips to offer? If you don’t, why not?
Want to do this, but need help getting started?
All the guidance you need is in the Dress with Less Microcourse.